The beautiful artwork of the ovens

Lovin’ Ovens: Breaking Bread Together

While many a kitchen has had an oven on two at the gathering, none have ever become as consistently well-known and loved for their baked goods as Lovin’ Ovens. From pizza, cinnamon rolls and danishes, to the classic main circle dinner roll, Lovin’ Ovens has been cranking out the baked goods for so long, it’s hard to imagine the gathering without them.

They began in the mid- to late 80s and in the early days were usually tied together with a kitchen named Jamba, who was known for “the best food, the worst service, and insults for free.” (It was also the first kitchen in the gathering that publicly served meat–a huge controversy back then.)  Still, it wouldn’t be  until the Nevada national that it got its name. Though they later became completely separate entities, Jamba continued to provide support for the Ovens for many years after. And like Jamba (and many of the younger kitchens in Rainbow), Lovin’ Ovens was started by a rather ornery crowd known for their roughness of tongue, their impatience with some of the more “shanti” aspects of the gathering, and their lack of taking sheit from anyone.

Kneaders are always needed.
Kneaders are always needed.

It’s Not a Kitchen – It’s a Bakery!

From the beginning, Lovin’ Ovens has always been adamant that it is bakery, not a kitchen. As a result, the support that Jamba gave them was often in the form of keeping the crew fed with the necessary non-baked goods. Jamba faded away after a number of years, but some of their crew remained with the Ovens long after. These days other kitchens sometime play a similar role, and many well known entities can usually be found set up near the Ovens (i.e. Safe Swinging, Montana Kitchen, etc.).

Another thing that sets Lovin’ Ovens apart from other Rainbow entities is it’s focus on the importance of “breaking bread” together. Their main focus is actually to provide bread to main circle, and an incredible amount of effort goes into making sure the literally thousands of dinner rolls that are delivered to main circle during the main dates of the gathering. The other baked goodies that come out of the ovens are really just the frosting on the cake (so to speak).

Making rolls

“Baked baker’s bake better baked goods baked!”

It wasn’t until the early 90s that the better known figures of Abe and Baker Bob began focalizing the Ovens. They were both great bakers from the east and wanted to make the Ovens a bit, well, gentler, than it had been before. (Believe it or not!) At that time Lovin’ Ovens briefly became the Whatever kitchen until the 1996 Missouri gathering when it merged with Everybody’s kitchen. Then it became Everybody’s Lovin’ Whatever. In 1997 it went back to its original name: Lovin’ Ovens. (Of course, many people still called them the Ovens no matter what changes were going on internally.)

ready to go into the oven

“One glove!”

Abe and Baker Bob remained the backbone of Lovin’ Ovens for a long, long time and were well-loved by many. Since their deaths, others have taken up the responsibility of keeping the ovens running, many of whom got their start in other Rainbow entities and only later migrated to the Ovens and become focalizers.  As one long-term Ovens crew member put it, “Unlike many kitchens, our crew doesn’t come from just one region–Rainbow refugees from all over take care of it.”

For many years the Ovens’ equipment traveled on the Everybody’s kitchen bus, but since 2001 the Ovens started creating their own stash of communal kitchen gear. Like Kiddie Village, whatever is bought must be for the kitchen alone and not belong to any particular individual.

Lovin' Ovens racks
The classic Lovin’ Ovens baking racks. Here pans of baked goods await their turn in the ovens and then spend time cooling once their time in the fire is finished.

Hot Pan!

While the current Lovin’ Ovens may be a kinder, gentler version of the ones that came before, one way to awaken the historic ogres is to get between the ovens and the racks, or in the way at all. And if you hear the cry “Hot Pan,” you better makes sure you’re definitively out of the way. Not only will it make sure that you stay safe and unburnt (those pans are truly HOT), but you’ll also avoid the ire of the ogres. And if you hear the cry taken up by others, well, join in! If, however, you’re not sure it’s all in good fun, you can always check the “Love Meter” and see what vibe the bakery’s riding on.

The vibe meterOver the years, a number of baking traditions have risen up, and from the 2nd-5th most of us can predict what  might happen:

  • Pizza night on the 2nd
  • Sticky Buns on the 3rd
  • Danishes on the 4th
  • Pizza night again on the 5th

Being a place of yummy treats, evenings at Lovin’ Ovens is often filled with music. In fact, most years it’s one of the most crowded places in the gathering during its featured nights. Still, night time isn’t the only time to come, and even on themed nights other delicacies can and will be served unpredictably. Day time, however, is usually time to work, whether it’s gathering the copious amounts of wood the bakery needs (especially for pizza night!), kneading dough for the rolls sent down daily to main circle, or washing dishes. And if you come for seed camp, pitching in on making the ovens is always a treat–and let’s face it, the ovens of Lovin’ Ovens are consistently some of the most beautiful ever to be found at a gathering.

The ovens in 2017

One thing to note, however: Lovin’ Ovens is a drum-free zone. Bring your guitars, your saxophones, your lovely voices, but leave the drums behind. (The exception is those drummers “who know how to play and are part of a band playing that night.”) Legend has it that “the drum beat is so powerful it doesn’t let the dough rise for the making of the bread.” As a result, the Ovens are often one of the few places you can go on site that allow you to get away from the ever-present drum.

Have stories about the Ovens? Let’s hear them! Also, if you remember things differently, feel free to say so. This, like all the posts here on Kitchens of Rainbow, was created from the recollections of long-term Ovens crew, and the farther back we go in history the fuzzier dates and such become.

10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Otter says:

    Baked Bakers bake Better baked goods Baked. Yes. Lovin’ Ovens, spelling mimicked from Lovin’ Spoonful. Also, Jamba giveth, and, Jamba taketh away. The Dumpster God Lives. I love fourth of July silence. Abraham is a very pivotal figure in my life from 1988 on. One of the last things he said to me was, “Heyy! It’s afternoon! The silence is over!” Not overly fond of silence, was Our Abraham. But, drum jams near ovens, or too many canadians, no. And, a little more sugar, yes. One Glove. Love, Emerald Otter.

  2. Fiddler says:

    I remember standing around the kneading table one day.The brother comes over and says “smaller! the size of a golf ball” commenting on the quality control for dinner rolls.It worked for awhile but then they start getting bigger again.Brother comes back and says SMALLER! THE SIZE OF A GOLF BALL.And someone replies “you do realize none of us play golf.”.

  3. elegant says:

    Hellо just wanted to give you a quicк heads up and
    let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading propeгly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different ԝeb browsers and both shօw the same resultѕ.

    1. Teryani says: Author

      Hmmm…strange. I’m not having any problems and no one else has reported any. I’ll try it with a different browser in a bit.

  4. Sue Bug says:

    I haven’t been home in almost a decade. BUt every year I am aware of it’s pulse wherever I am. The ovens was a great place to be and the kitchen I called home .nice to see it is still going strong.

  5. Velma says:

    Trying to remember the year I experienced Lovin Ovens in upstate NY. It was between 90-96 I think and there were northern lights one night and a circle rainbow around the sun one day. The best pie I ever tasted from the ovens and a beautiful experience. Anyone remember this? I thought TIME magazine had covered the rainbow halo but I can’t find it on google.

  6. Sonic says:

    I remember being at the Montana rainbow gathering–must have been back in the 90s. I don’t know why or how I found my way to the Lovin Oven area, but I remember they had a fire going in the evening so it was warm (it was cold where we were–the horizon was surrounded by snowy mountains). I remember someone happened to have a bag of M&Ms and they gave them to the bakers who exclaimed with delight and proceeded to bake one single M&M into each ball of dough, so there was enough to share with everyone there. It was beautiful how such a seemingly small gesture of donating a bag of candy from one, some flour and sugar and a lot of love from the bakers, could end up creating such a treat! I’ll never forget how amazed I was and how appreciative as well, since I had been hitchhiking through the states and hadn’t eaten in a while, and the ball of dough with the M&M was the best thing I can remember eating for months–but again, also because of the meaning behind it and the spirit of sharing, love, and warmth. Thank you Lovin Ovens and all you people who’ve worked in them!

    PS: I think it was Lovin Oven–the name is so familiar. It was up overlooking the valley and it was warm with a fire all night, which was good for me since I couldn’t sleep from the cold since I didn’t have a good sleeping bag for Montana weather (I’m from California). I also remember a solar oven somewhere down in the valley though, and remember that also being called “Lovin Oven” though. But it baked muffins during the day while that fires kept me warm during the night. Thanks again guys! You guys are lifesavers! <3

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